A survivor of the now-infamous anti-LGBTQ “purges” in Chechnya has gone on record about brutal human rights abuses he endured—and the lies the Chechen government continues to tell.
As Time reports, Amin Dzhabrailov, a hairdresser from the Chechen capital of Grozny, was forcibly removed from his workplace by state police one day in 2017. The weeks that followed—in which Dzhabrailov, 27, was detained, tortured with electric shock devices, violently interrogated, and outed against his will to his entire family—were traumatizing.
“It was so painful, you’re just screaming, that’s all you could do,” Dzhabrailov told the magazine, recalling how authorities used an electric shock device during an interrogation to prompt him to “name” other gay men. When he refused, an officer even put a gun to his head.
“At this moment, I myself, died,” he added, choking up. “I was so lost. I was so lost.”
Sadly, Dzhabrailov isn’t the only queer Chechen to suffer abuses amounting to torture at the hand of his nation’s leaders. Some, like Russian pop singer Zelimkhan Bakaev, have been missing for years and are believed by human rights advocates to have been executed by authorities.
This February—nearly two years after the first reports of state-sanctioned torture in Chechnya began to emerge from local news outlets—LGBTQ activists Adam Eli and Lyosha Gorshkov told MTV News that the U.S. government still hasn’t accepted any Chechen asylum seekers fleeing persecution.
.@Dometi_ and @aewerner of @voices4_ and @AlanQAF of @rusalgbt break down what you #NeedtoKnow about Chechnya's genocide of its LGBTQ community and the obstacles for those seeking asylum in the U.S. https://t.co/yy1wsyduqL
— MTV NEWS (@MTVNEWS) February 6, 2019
Even after prodding from the U.S. Department of State and the European Parliament urging Russia to investigate the allegations of horrific abuse, Russia refuses to address the torture—or acknowledge that it exists.
Back in 2017, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov even asserted that “we don’t have any gays” in Chechnya as a means of denying the reports.
Dzhabrailov was able to escape the torture in Chechnya with the help of Rainbow Railroad, a Canadian advocacy group that helps LGBTQ asylum seekers migrate elsewhere safely to avoid persecution. Still, he maintains that Russian leaders need to step in, and that despite the claims of certain anti-LGBTQ politicians, “the truth exists.”